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Dateline NBC

News/Business. Keith Morrison, Josh Mankiewicz, Hoda Kotb. Investigative journalism. (CC) (Stereo)

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TOPIC FREQUENCY

Ryan Ferguson 20, Zellner 7, Jerry Trump 7, Chuck Erickson 7, Us 5, Missouri 5, Ryan 4, Columbia 4, Geico 4, Chuck Ericsson 4, Washington 3, Ferguson 3, Virginia 3, Michael Boyd 2, Boyd 2, Chuck 2, Intermezzo 2, Kansas City 2, Vidal Sassoon 2, Lester Holt 2,
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  NBC    Dateline NBC    News/Business. Keith Morrison, Josh Mankiewicz,  
   Hoda Kotb. Investigative journalism. (CC) (Stereo)  

    February 11, 2013
    2:00 - 3:00am PST  

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and prove my innocence. >> i'm lester holt, this is "dateline." the mystery "under a killing moon." here is keith morris. >> in the dark is where things like this happen. >> in the dark where the truth could be hard to see. hard to see maybe. even when they turn on the lights. >> it's indescribable. it's devastating. everything you believed in, everything you loved has been taken from you for no reason. >> this is the story of a man stuck in another man's blackest nightmare. freedom snatched away on the strength of a dream. now also it's become the amazing story of what happened here in this remarkable courtroom in the heart of america. the fight here to uphold truth, find justice and perhaps undo a dreadful lie. >> i don't want to die.
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knowing that i did the wrong thing. >> this is the dreamer. his name is chuck erickson. >> i couldn't remember that night. >> this the subject or should we say casualty of his dream. his name is ryan ferguson. perhaps you heard about his story. we told it right here on "dateline." what happened since changes everything. you can see it in motion here at this rarest of legal happenings. our tortured dreamer relived the bizarre tale that began that strange, dark and confusing night. >> i couldn't remember going home. leaving the club. >> the club, yes, that's where it all began. so puzzling. the events of the night back in 2001. a rare full moon on halloween. a college town, columbia,
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missouri. ryan ferguson and chuck ericsson, both at 17, considerably underwage gained entry at a college bar. judge a hangout named -- >> by george. got in, started dancing. >> that's young to get into a club. >> college town, university. a way people live in college towns. everybody wants to be in the mix. >> it was ryan's older sister kelly helped sneak them in. >> i remember seeing ryan and chuck one time in there. ryan was talking to a flamingo-dressed girl who was very tall. they seemed to be having lots of fun. >> outside, raucous music carried through empty streets till 1:30 a.m. 2:00 a.m. was quitting time at the columbia daily tribune. the deadline for rookie sportswriter michael boyd. i encountered his boss.
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as they talked, boyd says they saw of all things a stray cat clawing at a car. >> the cat was clawing his tire. >> clawing is a tire? >> like a scratching post. they said good night. it was perhaps ten minutes later, 2:26 a.m. when two janitors called 911. >> we need someone here at the columbia daily tribune. >> it was suddenly the deadly center of the biggest story in town. >> the sports editor jim laying on the ground, pool of blood. looks like he's been shot or something. >> the sports editor was dead. murdered in the newspaper parking lot. they called him heidi. he was huge, literally. big man, big presence at the paper. well-liked around town. reporter boyd returned from home
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in time to see his boss' body still in the parking lot. >> that was awful. seeing him lying there, you're just like, i don't know. i'm sorry. >> no doubt, he wasn't shot. somebody hit him hard on the back of his head with a blunt instrument and strangled him where he lay. investigators found fingerprints and strands of hair, which he must surely have pulled from the head of his killer. something else police don't often have, suspects, described, if vaguely, by one of the janitors. >> i saw two guys in the area. >> white or black? >> white. 19, 20. >> do you remember any description? >> i don't. they were close to 6 feet, thin. one had blonde hair.
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really short blonde hair. >> the woman said she saw the young man briefly duck behind a car and walk away out of the parking lot toward the university. not far from the bar. the search turned up nothing. ditto for this composite sketch based on the janitor's descriptions. the two young man, belligerent halloween revelers intended to rob him, interrupted by two night janitors. >> in columbia, i don't think anybody could have gotten around and not heard about it. >> now all police had to do was find out who those two young men were. never imagining for a moment the bizarre tale that would reel them in. >> as our story unfolds tonight, you're going to see startling new developments in this case. the quest for justice is not
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over yet. when we come back, pay close attention. you're about to hear two very different stories of what happened that night. one from chuck erickson. another from ryan ferguson. >> i was like, oh, my goodness, this is absurd. >> which one is telling the truth? after working on the computer all day, you'd think i want to stay away from it at night. truth is, i like to stay connected with friends. but all that screen time can really dry me out. so i use visine. aah. it revives me, so i can get poked, winked, and -- ooh -- party all night long. only visine has hydroblend -- a unique blend of three moisturizers that soothe, restore, and protect to keep me comfortable for up to 10 hours. pirate party, here i co-- uh, honey? visine with hydroblend. find it in these visine products.
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[ male announcer ] go pro with crest pro-health. i don't think i'll ever go back to another product. see. [ male announcer ] go pro with crest pro-health. all right that's a fifth-floor probleok.. not in my house! ha ha ha! ha ha ha! no no no! not today! ha ha ha! ha ha ha! jimmy how happy are folks who save hundreds of dollars switching to geico? happier than dikembe mutumbo blocking a shot. get happy. get geico. fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more. challenge that with olay facial hair removal duos for fine or coarse hair. first a pre-treatment balm then the effective cream. for gentle hair removal at far less than salon prices. there's no place like home. [♪...] >> i've been training all year for the big race in chicago, but i can only afford one trip. and i just found out my best friend is getting married
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in l.a. there's no way i'm missing that. then i heard about hotwire and i realized i could actually afford both trips. see, when really nice hotels have unsold rooms, they use hotwire to fill them. so i got my four-star hotels for half-price! >> men: ♪ h-o-t-w-i-r-e ♪ hotwire.com >> announcer: save big on car rentals too, from $12.95 a day. the investigation into the halloween murder of newspaperman kent heidel began almost as it began in columbia, missouri, which was anything but
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comforting knowledge around town. the idea of a murderer on the loose, unsettling, said ryan ferguson's mother leslie. >> when you live in a town and there's been a murder and they don't know who committed the murder, you're wondering, this person is still out there. >> as one halloween gave way to the next, life got back to normal, for the teenagers anyway. >> it was completely disconnected from my life. it had absolutely nothing to do with anything i knew or anyone i knew. >> ryan ferguson and chuck ericsson finished high school and moved on. ryan to college in kansas city and chuck to a life of booze and drugs in columbia. by then the two long drifted apart. ryan said chuck was never part of his group of friends in the first place. >> he was on the outside looking in. he was doing things our group didn't really get into, you know? causing problems, more or less. >> then two years after the
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murder, he ran into chuck at a new year's eve party. chuck asked him a very odd question. >> he said, hey, man, remember hanging out on halloween a couple of years back, going to the club? yeah. do you know if i had anything to do with that crime committed against this guy who was killed? at that point, i'm freaked out. it's night, i'm outside, it's past midnight. this guy is talking about, do i know if he's involved in a murder? >> had to be chuck's idea of a morbid joke, ryan decided. ah, but it wasn't. ryan couldn't know chuck was telling other frebiends about ts weird dream-like moment. another night somebody called 911. >> you know the reporter at the tribune that was murdered? i know what happened and i know
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the murderer. >> the 911 caller didn't give his name. but agreed to meet the police and tell them how an acquaintance named chuck ericsson might have thought he committed a murder. a dead case came roaring back to life. police called erickson in for a chap. he was hesitant and confused. might have blacked out and started imagining things. >> i could be fabricating all this and not know. like, i don't know. i don't. >> by the end of it, he admitted everything. >> where did you hit him? in the head with? >> a wrench. >> i did go down immediately? >> i don't think so. he staggered. >> did you see blood? >> yeah. >> it made perfect sense. a fair-skinned teenager who had been out drinking at a college
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bar a few blocks from the teenager, the night the killing moon loomed overhead. remember, the night janitor saw two young men in the parking lot. the police traced two sets of bloody foot prints. chuck's admission only had to be half of the equation. who was his accomplice? that's when he named the person who was with him. ryan ferguson. >> i remember seeing ryan hovering over this guy. i asked him if he was dead. ryan said, yeah, he was dead. >> why would ryan and chuck want to harm anyone that night, much less a popular newspaper man they didn't know from adam? money, said chuck. they needed money to buy more drinks. >> you guys run out of money? >> yeah. i think we were leaving. >> this is closing time? >> miles away in kansas city, it
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was a sunny spring afternoon. ryan was driving home from class. and was puzzled at first, he said, when the police pulled him over. what happened when you got to the police department? >> they tell me they are arresting me on suspicion of a murder. i'm like, oh, my goodness, this is absurd. >> he told detectives he left with chuck at closing time, dropped chuck off at closing time, went home and went to bed. even though he denied anything to do with his murder, news of his arrest was on tv. >> there is a big break tonight in the murder of kent heitbolt. >> my first reaction was just, i just said, i think i laughed. i said, well, it's not our ryan. it has to be another ryan ferguson. >> impossible. sweet, loving, loveable ryan.
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not a violent bone in that boy's body, his father bill told us. >> he didn't have that sort of mentality. so all off of a sudden for him e accused of a heinous murder is beyond our comprehension. >> brian ferguson was charged with murder. his old buddy chuck was ready to tell the world why ryan should spend the rest of his life in prison. >> coming up -- >> what did he do? later, you'll see new evidence and new witnesses that call that into question. >> they walked straight to the car and drove away.
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it was almost halloween again. the third since the full moon murder of kent heitold. ryan ferguson found himself waiting to be tried for murder
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based on what his old buddy said was a memory recovered in a dream. a bizarre hell said ryan. isn't it possible you did have enough to drink you repressed your own memories? you were in a fog, you didn't know what you had done? >> absolutely not. absolutely not. >> pretty sure of that memory of yours? >> absolutely. no doubt in my mind. i know exactly what i did that night many. >> it was the trial of decade in columbia, missouri. only ryan was on trial. chuck ericsson copped a plea for a reduced sentence of 25 years. he presented himself as a young man in such pain he repressed his traumatic memory more than two years. >> it was hard after dealing with it by myself and not thinking about it for two years. then i'm sitting down here and it's all rushing at me, my god, i killed this man. >> at least he said he assaulted him, hit him with a tire tool
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from ryan's car. he reenacted what ryan did. >> he had a foot on the victim's back and pulled him up on the belt like this. >> i don't know. >> any flicker of the hesitancy chuck displayed was gone. replaced with righteous conviction. >> i've got to go to prison the rest of my life. >> strangling to death. >> the prosecutor didn't present dna or fingerprint evidence l g linking ryan to the bloody scene. he had this man. his name. >> jury trump. 56. >> jerry trump is one of the janitors that called 911 the night of the murder. the man who reported seeing two young men. >> they were close to six feet. >> now in court.
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>> would you point to that individual, individuals, please? >> yes. >> fingered by an eyewitness, accused by a former friend. ryan pleaded with the jury, don't believe a word of it. >> did you go to the tribune parking lot? >> no. >> did you see kent anywhere? >> no. >> did you have any contact with kent anywhere? >> no. >> did you participate in this murder? >> accusations said ryan was crazy. the bloody foot prints were not his size. police didn't find any trace of blood in his car. the whole trial, a huge mistake. he was innocent. >> i never thought i would be arrested for a crime i didn't commit. would you believe you would be arrested for a crime i didn't commit? >> i didn't commit one. >> neither did i. >> ryan's supporters clearly believed him, but the jury? it was a friday evening when
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they left the court. that same friday etching when they came back. >> as to count one, we the jury find defendant ryan william ferguson guilty of murder in the second degree. >> guilty of murder and robbery. he was sentenced to 40 years. kent heithold's daughter. >> i can remember him as just my dad and someone loved by everyone. >> the tribune put the story to bed, perhaps for good. but it was a struggle for ryan's family. convicted murder, a son and brother. kelly, the indulgent sister wrestled with debilitating remorse. >> of course i feel very guilty. because not only was he down there because of me, but i also got him into a bar under age. it just looks really bad. >> you almost feel like you're
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stepping back from yourself and you're watching other people yourself going through this because it can't really be your life. it can't be you going through this. >> how do you get over a thing like that? >> you don't get over it. you get dizzy. that's what we did. >> we're not over it. we're just dizzy. >> the ferguson family, especially father bill went on radio tv, anywhere to insist ryan was not a murderer. >> our son's innocent. we want to free him as soon as possible. >> more than that, bill decided there must be somewhere evidence to the contrary. if only he could find it. one little piece of information could break the whole case? >> it could make a difference. >> it was nighttime when bill ferguson wandered through columbia downtown, puzzling out clues. what is it about this place that tells you your son didn't do it? >> it's not so much this place. it's what happened this place.
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the bar closed at 1:30. >> didn't the jury notice time didn't add up, bill wondered? why would ryan and chuck commit a murder after 2:00 a.m. to go back to a bar closed for an hour? something else kept flagging at bill. that 911 call. >> we need someone here at the columbia daily tribune. >> only the male janitor identified ryan. what about the woman on the 911 tape? she testified too, but on the stand she wasn't asked to point out ryan. >> i became very suspicious. wait a second, she is the witness. >> bill tracked her down and brought her back here to the place she was standing. >> so the person you saw, the person, was that ryan ferguson? she goes, no, that was not. was it chuck ericsson? it was not. >> she was sure of that? >> bill thought this was a huge discovery. he started gathering other evidence. would it be enough to convince a
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judge his son deserved a new trial? as bill was to find out, once a jury found a person guilty of murder, undoing that verdict can seem, can be close toim possible. >> no one in this case was about to give up. least of all ryan and his family. when we come back, a new defense team and new twist. a letter that might change everything. >> my eyes were racing. oh, my god, he's retelling the story, but ryan's not the killer. [ female announcer ] does your color have staying power... or just seem to fade away, day by day? don't compromise. new vidal sassoon pro series from the original salon genius. starts vibrant, stays vibrant. precision mix formula saturates each strand for 100% gray coverage. hydrablock conditioner helps fight fade out for up to 8 weeks. new vidal sassoon lets you say no to compromise and yes to vibrant color like this. new vidal sassoon pro series
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>> time ticks by so slowly when you're 21, in a concrete room. >> 40 years goes by so slowsly. >> ryan battled despair when new evidence failed to win his freedom. his family pursued appeal after appeal in attempts to get his conviction overturned. all rejected. bill found several new witnesses, but all their stories were deemed not credible. >> if you have to serve that, you come out a senior citizen if you're still alive. >> unfortunately. at the end of the day, you never know what's going to happen. >> you don't, do you? as it turned out, the case was catnip for an attorney named kathleen zoner. judge made you believe this
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person was innocent? >> it was really ryan, my interaction with him. there was no sign of any deception. >> she has won the release of more than a dozen men wrongfully convicted of murder and rape. she was honored last year with the american bar's association pursuit of justice award. this case, she had never seen anything like it. because in this strange case she thought there were two innocent men, ryan and chuck his accuser. a confused young man, but not a killer. >> what was put on at this trial was a completely fabricated case. the reason it worked because the jury could not understand why someone would confess to a crime they didn't commit and then take a 25-year sentence. >> none of the fingerprints, dna, hair or foot prints matched
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ryan or chuck. >> ryan ferguson has $20 in his wallet and a credit card. why would he be leaving a bar and attack the biggest guy in town to take a timex watch and his car keys? the reason is they've got the killer's prints and probably touched dna on them. that's why the person took them. they are fighting. it's hand-to-hand combat. has nothing to do with the robby. >> she just begun building her case looking for new evidence, alternative suspects when a gift arrived. sort of thing an attorney can only dream about. it was a letter, not to her, but ryan ferguson. >> i get this letter from charles erickson. what could this possibly say? basically just says, send an attorney, don't tell anybody you're doing it. >> send an attorney to see him? don't tell anybody? >> don't tell the media.
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>> what did chuck erickson want with a lawyer? didn't take long to find out. when kathleen and her law partner arrived, he handed them a piece of paper. it was a statement in his own hand writing. >> i looked at it and my eyes were racing. i thought, oh, my god, he's retelling the story, but ryan's not the killer. >> things happened differently than i restated. >> chuck said he lied about so many things big and small. his biggest lie was the one which he said ryan was the killer. >> i made up what i said about ryan being on top of the victim. >> in this telling, chuck said it was he, not ryan who turned the robbery mission into a murder. he strangled kent with a belt while ryan stood by. >> are you saying today you are the sole murderer of kent h
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heiholt? >> it must have been a great day. >> it was, but to me it was the first step. >> and puzzling, too. zellner was convinced neither chuck nor ryan was near the murder. they believed chuck was still confused. >> the reality he doesn't know what happened that night. he's trying to puthese things together. >> was it enough? they physically carried the new information to the courthouse. maybe that day, the ferguson's luck turned. the court decided there would be a special hearing at which chuck's new story and any new evidence collected by ryan's attorney would be considered. what's your hope this week? >> this week i hope that the judge will evaluate the information. that they'll exonerate ryan. >> in april of 2012, after eight years and 33 days behind bars,
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ryan ferguson, handcuffed and shackled, shuffled into a courtroom. was he prepared? the evening before, talking with us, he had been wearing his optimism on his sleeve like armor. >> i want to make my life great when i get out. i feel like i've been preparing eight years to live life. >> coming up -- >> i lied and said i remembered things i didn't remember. >> chuck erickson is back on the stand. he's not the only one who's changed his story. >> i'd like to ask forgiveness from ryan. and his family. every year we pick a new city to explore. but thanks to hotwire, this year we got to take an extra trip. because they get us ridiculously low prices on really nice hotels and car rentals. so we hit boston in the spring-- even caught a game. and with the money we saved, we took a trip to san francisco. you see, hotwire checks the competitions' rates every day
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there are moments in staid old buildings new and electric as quivering news, which was in 2012 in the old courthouse in jefferson city, missouri. ryan ferguson waiting for a former friend to tell the truth. >> i would expect chuck to mostly testify to the fact he lied on the stand. i think he is a troubled man who has no idea what he did that night. >> for days in a hotel down the street, the attorney and her
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team have been literally living with the evidence they believe would exonerate ryan ferguson. >> knowing someone as young as ryan ferguson is completely innocent and such a good person is in a completely fabricated case keeps you up at night. >> maybe because the hurdle for overturns a conviction is very, very high. zellner would have to prove ryan's actual innocence, using only evidence that was not known at the time of ryan's trial. >> ryan ferguson is actually innocent of the murder of kent heightold. >> the attorney called this new witness who said she remembered seeing ryan and chuck leave the bar in ryan's car at closing time, 1:30, just as ryan auld claimed. >> after they said good-bye, they walked straight to the car and got it in and drove away.
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>> zellner called that cub reporter michael boyd. she didn't exactly accuse boyd of anything, but wanted to get him on the record on two things. that police failed to investigate him and that his own story put him exactly at or very near the time of the murder. >> and at no point do you submit dna? >> no, ma'am. >> okay. no one checks either of your cars, is that right? >> that's right. nobody. >> boyd never was and is not now a suspect and told "dateline" he did not commit the crime. boyd wasn't the centerpiece of the hearing this. man was. chuck erickson, who here in this room since the first time since the trial came face-to-face with the man he put in prison. >> this testimony he made up during the trial took my life.
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and, you know, it's crazy to believe his testimony now could give my life back. >> he did not want a part in it. >> chuck took responsibility for the murder, but still said ryan had been there. what will he say this time? >> do you remember killing mr. heightold? >> it became perfectly clear his story had changed again. now chuck was saying he has no memory at all of what he and ryan did halloween night after they left the bar. and more important, he never did remember. >> i lied and said i remembered things i didn't remember and said he did stuff that i don't remember him doing or me doing. >> how can he not know? committing or not committing a murder, how can you not know? >> that is a very baffling thing to myself and everyone, i think. he was asleep that night. i dropped him off at home.
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>> why should anybody believe chuck now versus then? >> that is a good question. i think to believe chuck erickson now or at any point in time, you need to look at the evolution of this story. >> in court, attorney zellner replayed the video to prove chuck's new story wasn't new at all. it was exactly what chuck told the policemen the very first time he talked to them. >> so far i could be just sitting here fabricating all this in my mind. like, i don't know. >> so chuck's confession, said zellner was pure fiction. a confused young man paritying back information an interrogator fed him. the murder weapon. so confident during the trial it was a belt. during his interrogation, he seemed to have no idea. so they told him.
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>> it wasn't a shirt. >> like maybe a bungee court? something from his car? i don't see why he would have a rope in his car. >> we know for a fact his belt was ripped off his pants and he was strangled with a belt. do you see a belt or something that looked like a rope or bungee cord? >> i don't know. >> now, you better start thinking very clearly. >> okay. >> because it's you that is on this chopping block. >> okay. >> am i clear to you? >> yes. >> why did you pay that piece of interrogation? >> it shows the tremendous pressure he was under. i don't have a memory of this. he's like, i don't want to hear any of that. you're going to have a memory. i'm going to tell you what the memory is. he's right in his face. >> so the story chuck is telling
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now that his memory is and was blank is the only one that makes any sense. >> if you had not been involved in the murder, why did you want to interject yourself into the murder? >> i mean, at the time i was thinking that, you know, i was blacked out. i was a couple blocks away. the picture in the paper looks like me. >> he told the judge he didn't want his mistake to take away ryan's life, too. >> i don't want to die, you know, knowing that i did the wrong thing. >> would the judge believe chuck's latest story? attorney zellner knew chuck was not exactly credible. she had one more card ready to play. quite literally the trump card. remember that night janitor of the newspaper, the man who pointed an accusing finger at ryan, jerry trump?
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>> yes. >> now zellner asks trump a simple question. how was he able to conclusively identify ryan a young man he saw in a dark, unlit parking lot years later? the startling accusation. jerry trump said he was just doing what he thought the prosecutor wanted. >> he said we're fairly sure we have the two twice that killed mr. heightold. we need you to identify them. he was pointing to a newspaper at that time. >> so when trump pointed at ryan, said he's good night, it was a lie. >> when you pointed to ryan ferguson in the courtroom and you said, that's the person you saw at the columbia tribune parking lot, was that true or false? >> it's false. >> so are you testifying with the understanding that by telling this testimony, you could be charged with perjury? >> yes, i am.
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>> do you anticipate or want anything for doing this? >> yes. i'd like to have forgiveness from ryan. and his family. >> the prosecutor in question, categorically denied jerry trump's claim. said he didn't tell jerry trump or anyone else to lie. the moment was so compelling that ryan's attorney said she had no further questions. let the emotion hang in the air for a moment while the state waited patiently, to telling the latest version of chuck erickson's story apart. >> coming up -- >> what was that? you didn't remember it being a murder? >> stirring arguments from the prosecutor. and then -- >> this is going to be it. >> a dramatic ruling from a judge.
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what you will see this week is a series of evolving lies. >> ryan ferguson's hearing in jefferson, missouri, was nothing if not dramatic. here the two key witnesses told the judge they lied when they helped convict him of murder. both told the judge they understood very well they could now be penalized heavily for having committed perjury. >> i could face the rest of my life in prison. maybe i deserve that for life. i basically sold my soul to save myself and maybe that's why i deserve this. >> did the state stand up, admit and error and send everybody home? it did not. the assistant attorney general told the judge chuck's latest story, that he had no memory at all of what happened the night of the murder was preposterous.
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>> you didn't remember it being a murder? >> i didn't remember committing a murder. i thought i had done it because i blacked out. >> only reason chuck changed his story, said the assistant d.g., he figured if ryan went free, he might get out of prison, too. >> you have a willingness to get ryan out? >> at the time i did. i'm telling you the truth now. i don't expect to you believe it. >> which chuck would the judge believe? the chuck who had one time appeared convinced he and ryan killed kent heightold or the chuck who said he was doing the right thing now? ryan had high hopes. >> people subjected themself to life in prison for coming forward and telling the truth. the truth is i had nothing to do with this case. >> now he waited. one month, two, four, six months he counted from his prison cell.
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he began to make plans to go into business with his father, travel to florida with his mother, to spend time with a new girlfriend he was corresponding with in prison. it was halloween, the 11th anniversary of heightold's murder. he was in his cell. >> they called me back there. you have an attorney phone call. >> attorney phone call? >> yes. >> this could be it. >> yeah. right then. >> what was it like? >> couldn't really think. just had to put one foot ahead of the other. that was it. i couldn't hear anything. my heart was beating. the anticipation was so great it canceled out everything else. then i got on the phone with my attorney. the first thing she said was, i've got a bit of bad news. basically, i didn't hear anything after that. >> the judge denied ryan ferguson's request to have his conviction overturned. >> i'm trying to hear what she's saying, but it's almost
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incomprehensible. it felt like a dream. >> in his ruling, the judge said chuck was completely fabricating the stories he told at the hearing. didn't believe his story about having no memory. said chuck was far more certain and specific at trial. as for the janitor jerry trump, the judge was convinced that jerry trump committed perjury at the initial trial. lied about seeing ryan, but he said it's unlikely it would have changed the jury's decision had they known the truth. in the same way he found out his son had been arrested for murder, bill ferguson learned ryan's fate from a reporter. >> she says, i just want to know if you want to make a comment on judge green's ruling? i'm thinking, what? what ruling? she goes, you know, oh, my god, you don't know, do you?
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i go, no. >> that was it. >> yeah. >> finally, i got hold of my dad. he was trying to hold it together, but even his voice cracked, you know? that was the worst sound i ever heard in my life and the most difficult thing i ever heard. >> then you were locked down? >> yeah. it's just at that moment you feel so empty and so alone. and hopeless, you know? >> kent heightold's family all along fought ryan's attempt to overturn his victory. kathleen zellner filed an appeal. also that evidence found at the crime scene leaves no doubt that michael boyd, the last known person to see michael heightold
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alive was an overlooked suspect with motive for murder. >> it is frustrating to have something so incredible happen where people are willing to come forward and admit they lied, then have a judge reject that. but thank goodness he doesn't have the last word on this. >> ryan's family is busy again. they put up a billboard here in town. trying to track down the real witness, the mystery witness the janitor spotted in the parking lot that fateful halloween of 2001. >> you wait and see. we're going to get a lot of good information out of this. >> and deep inside the state prison, ryan ferguson counts the days. are you allowing yourself as you did before this hearing to imagine, you know, next week, next month, next year, what i'll
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do on the outside? >> it's a long way away by now, but yeah, i do imagine it. you know. i've an amazing family, an amazing girl in my life. i really look forward to being able to live with them and spend time with them. i think when i do get out, we'll all do amazing things together. i live for that. >> that's all for now. i'm lester holt. thanks for joining us. from nbc news in washington, the world's longest-running television program, this is "meet the press" meet. good sunday morning. we are following the big weather story in the northeast as this weekend's huge winter storm blanketed the region from new york to maine. new york city is getting the worst of it all. more than three feet of snow
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fell in parts of connecticut, rhode island, and massachusetts. cutting power and downing trees. electrical power remains out in nearly 350,000 homes whereas the area this morning. so a lot of cleanup to do there. meanwhile, the political climate has our attention here in washington as the president prepares to deliver his state of the union address tuesday night. as we begins a second term, we're being told he will return to his primary message of how to restore economic growth. we'll talk to both sides this morning. majority leader eric cantor and assistant democratic leader in the senate dick durbin. i want to welcome you back to "meet the press." >> pleasure, david. thank you. >> there are so many areas that are contentious right now, and chief among them is the sequester word. this dirty word in washington, that means automatic spending cuts. it could begin in a matter of weeks with $85 billion in automatic cuts. do you really want this as a republican leader? look at the impact it would have
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in your state alone. the associated press wrote about this it this week. sequestration, today a political football would cripple virginia's economy if happens. potentially no state would suffer more than virginia. the commonwealth would lose more than $130,000 jobs, more than any other states. not only is virginia home to the pentagon, the world's largest u.s. navy base, but a hub for major defense contractors such as aircraft builders. so the impact over 200,000 jobs, second only to california. you can't want this automatic spending cut to go forward. >> you know, clearly this is not, david, the best way to go about trying to chroontrol spending. and we have demonstrated in the house two separate occasions -- one of the bills we put across the floor and passed i was the
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sponsor of for that reason. these are indiscriminate cuts. we can do a lot better. what i hope to be able to hear from the president in the state of the union is he wants to join us in trying to effect much smarter cuts in spending. >> but that's what he's saying. >> we don't have to have the impact that you just described. >> why not work with him on short-term measure which he is talking about to delay this, find a different way to go about some of the cuts? >> the problem is, david, every time you turn around the answer is to raise taxes. and, you know, he just got his tax hike on the wealthy. and you can't in this town every three months raise taxes. again, every time, that's his response. and we've got a spending problem. everybody knows it. the house has put forward an alternative plan, and there's been no response in any serious way from the senate or the white house. it's time we really have to do it. >> this is how the president responded to that in his saturday address. taking on the house plan and tried tut